Online dating is turning us all into picky, deluded snobs waiting for Mr or Ms Perfect
YOU might think that women would be put off by a dating profile that features some lad who's so proud of his gym-honed pecs that he poses shirtless in his shower. Some dating sites beg to differ. Take beautifulpeople.com, where each member is selected for his or her looks, from tens of thousands of applicants to what is marketed as the biggest network of attractive people in the world. The site is something like Mensa for the good-looking.
If you want to be part of the certified beautiful too, you post a photo with a short biography and then wait a worrisome 48 hours while you are voted on by existing members.
If you're deemed beautiful enough, you are allowed to join up. Beware the men and women who struggle with things like acne, broken capillaries, enlarged pores, pale rolls of flesh or baldness. You won't be getting in. It doesn't matter much, though, if you're prone to wake up the next morning with rank breath and a bad attitude.
If you think the profile of the guy you've met online sounds too good to be true, there's reason to be suspicious. Most people are dishonest on dating sites. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin Madison and Cornell University found that 8pc of online daters lie about their height, weight or age.
Irish women fare better than Irish men, according to the latest figures from beautifulpeople.com, but they still have one of the highest rejection rates for joining the site. Irish men have been outed by the dating website as some of the ugliest males in the world. Only 9pc of Irish men were accepted. But only 20pc of Irish women who applied were accepted – a small figure in comparison to the 68pc of Swedish women who were cleared to join the site.
It all seems very like we're reaching some kind of tipping point. Something has happened in our 20th-century culture and the result is that we've come up with a sort of fantasy world inhabited by honed, muscular men and leggy, impossibly perfect women, of six-packs and grapefruit boobs. We have magazines that ask if a person is hot or not. We have endless television programmes about Botox, plastic surgery and looking 10 years younger.
But what happens when the beautiful people make a mistake? Well, that's where those 'circles of shame' come from. Just think about the very first time you discovered kinkles (knee wrinkles to you and me) and cankles (where you calf size is indistinguishable from your ankle girth).
Equality has gone some way towards democratising desire. And both sexes can prioritise looks nowadays as much or as little as they like. That is a good thing and there will always be people who need arm candy, but neither men nor women hold the monopoly on shallow mating.
Of course, choosing a romantic partner isn't an act of charity and every attachment is a precursor to forever. And who doesn't have a friend, male or female, who is too picky? There's the girl who couldn't possibly date someone with a Hotmail email address. There's the guy who couldn't date a brunette. We all know one or another of these types.
Ultimately, it's up to us who we do or don't want to date. But a choice that may seem accidental in the real world becomes a deliberate exclusion online – and ever since dating became an industry and the selection of potential mates mushroomed, it means that we are becoming ever more dismissive of people, ever more shallow, and decide to cast people to one side because of their weight, their race, their age, their general looks.
The identity, deception and the authenticity of human connections made through modern technology are highly questionable. We are continually being reassured that there are plenty more fish in the sea.
Maybe I'm old-fashioned but firmly believe that when choosing a partner, beauty fades but personality and character remain. The thing to remember here is that the greatest friend you never had could be somewhere out there right now wearing too-short jeans with crooked teeth and listening to a 'Sceptics Guide' podcast.